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Do You Know What It Takes To Be Heard By God?

By Henry Nelson



  Matthew 6:5-6 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” When we pray, we say we want to be heard, but I am not sure many of us really expect God to hear us quite so immediately or so dramatically as all that! In fact, I wonder, do we expect to be heard at all? I wonder do we really expect God to hear and act on our prayers. Why do I say that? Because if you do expect God to hear your prayers, why is it you have ignored the path most clearly laid out in the Bible? If you truly expect that God will hear your prayers, why do you pay so little attention to one of the clearest and most obvious instructions the Scriptures have to give us? {{more}}All over the world, men and women are trying to do some things that they think will assure that whatever god they pray to will hear them. Some bring gifts of money or offerings of food, expecting that their god will be pleased and will listen to them because he has been bought off. In India, where the temples of the Hindu deities dot every street corner, you will see offerings of food and of flowers brought every morning by the desperate and the suffering, who keep on hoping that these grotesque figures of wood and stone will hear them. Today I want to tell you of a God who sometimes instructs his followers to forget about offering, their gifts and go do something else before their gifts will be acceptable, before their prayers will be heard. Some people set up rituals of petition that focus on how often prayer is offered. So many of the world’s praying people seem to focus on the volume of their prayers, the quantity of their prayers. Surely if some of them think that if they keep on storming the gates of heaven, they will be heard. Surely if the circuits to God can be jammed He will have to hear me. Today I am going to tell you of a God who tells us to pray in secret and in quiet; of a God who Himself speaks in the still, small voice; of a God who counsels us not to heap up empty words; of a Christ whose model prayer can be recited in only 30 seconds. I am going to tell you of a God who will hear us, in fact, even when we cannot even form our prayers or speak our own minds! What you must do to be heard by God is really so simple; and yet, like everything that matters, it’s profound, it’s life-changing, and it’s demanding: What does it take to be heard by God? May I suggest that you begin by making certain that you are broadcasting to the right audience? It just stands to reason, that if you want God to hear you than you better be talking to God! God had better be the real audience. Amen!You see, a lot of us are praying to be heard, but to be heard by someone other than God. You get so caught up in your words, your phrasing; you get so bound up in your self-image, that before long it becomes clear that you are not talking with God. You are talking to other people; you are talking to yourselves; you are trying to make an impression. But if you want to be heard by God, then be sure your prayer is really directed toward Him and not to the wrong audience. Amen!There is a practice in some churches called, “leading in prayer”. Now notice the language: it is supposed to be leading others to pray. It is not supposed to be you praying instead of other people. It is not even praying for other people. It is to be leading, encouraging, others to pray. If I lead you to pray, it means I merely suggest some things for which you might want to pray, and then you do your own praying. But what happens to us? We get all caught up in sounding good. We worry about how to use Thou and Thee and Thine, as if God were frozen somewhere in the 17th century. We get all wrapped up in being eloquent and pungent. In my opinion that misses the point entirely. Listen to the Lord’s warning in Matthew 6:5, “When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen of men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you”. Amen!This week I want to encourage those of you who feel unable to pray because you think you do not know the right words. I just want to tell you that there are no right words except the words that express the heart. Amen!If you want to be heard by God, then make sure God is the audience, and forget about what others may hear; forget about what the traditional prayer language sounds like. Speak to the one audience that counts. Pour out exactly what you feel and you will be on your way to being heard. Now what does it take to be heard by God? Once you have established that God is your audience, make sure that all-important audience hears the real you. If you now know to whom you’re addressing your prayer, are you sure it’s really you doing the praying? That is what Jesus is getting at when He says, just before He teaches the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:7, “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” If you want to be heard by God, make sure that it really is you that God is hearing, and not just words that somebody else taught you! It has been written that the Lord’s Prayer has in it a very dangerous petition “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” And then, as if that were not already abundantly clear, Jesus adds a verse of explanation, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Notice a very small but very powerful word here. The word is “As”. Forgive us our sins As we forgive. I call this a dangerous petition, because if you listen and look carefully, this “As” business will really get to you. “As” means “in the same way and “in the same proportions,” So if I must pray for God to forgive me in the same way as I forgive others, then I need to look very carefully at the way I forgive, the way I treat others, do I not? If I am going to be heard by God in the same proportions as I hear others, well, then that just might explain why sometimes it feels as though God does not hear my prayers, because some us of sure do like to nurse grudges. Some of us certainly enjoy a juicy scandal and others of us just get all wound up in keeping score of how many times we have been offended or we think, insulted. The thing that keeps many of us from being spiritually powerful is that we are too good, or should I say too “goody-goody”. We do not know what it is to be forgiven and we do not know what it is to forgive. Most of us have never gone out and stolen money; you have never sold drugs on the street corner; you have never seduced someone into an illicit relationship and so it seems as though we have not been forgiven of very much, but that can mean that you are also not very forgiving. Amen!You see, I know church folk who think that church is for the good people; that church is for the folks who have their act together; who are well scrubbed and well behaved, and whose idea of a happy hour is 29 choruses of “Kum Bay Ya” around a campfire. Some of you do not have a whole lot of understanding or tolerance of those whose lives are not together. You and I know church folk who feel that church is for the respectable, for the successful and the middle-class, that church is a mutual admiration society for those who can demonstrate that they are worthy to be there.   Identify with the prayer of the little girls who knelt down at her bedside after coming home from church and prayed, “O Lord, please make all the bad people good and all the good people nice!” Amen!I will tell you that church is for those who are being forgiven. Church is for those who have faced their faults and have given them over to the living God. Church is for those who bring their brokenness, their pain, their failure, and lay it all out at the feet of the Master and say, “Take it away, here, take it.”   Lastly I would like you to ask God to “Forgive your sins as in the same way in the same proportions as you forgive others.” Now you know what it takes to be heard by God. Amen!

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